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The Handy Guide to the Gurus of Management
Charles Handy was, for many years, a professor at the London Business School. He is now an independent writer and broadcaster. He describes himself, these days, as a social philosopher.
Tom Peters
Episode 4: Tom Peters

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Tom Peters is not a philosopher or a social historian like Peter Drucker. He no longer has any all-embracing theories of the world of organisations nor any formulas for change but he gets under the skin of an organisation.

His first big book, 'In Search Of Excellence' came out in 1982 and made Tom a fashionable guru. The book looked at 43 successful companies and analysed the reasons for their success over twenty years. Peters and Waterman came up with:

eight characteristics of excellence:

- they were do-ers
- they understood their clients' needs
- they were independent and innovative
- they believed in productivity through people
- they were hands-on and value-driven
- they only did what they did best
- had a simple form and lean staff
- and had a tight-loose structure


seven checkpoints for analysis, the Seven S Framework:

Strategy, Structure and Systems, the so-called hard S's
Staff, Style, Shared Values and Skills, the so-called soft S's

The trouble was that the 43 excellent companies did not stay excellent for long. Many, including the star of the book, the computer company IBM, faltered soon after. Peters apologised in his later books.

The whole world of work, he realised, was changing. Ninety per cent of jobs, were likely to be completely transformed or eliminated in the next ten to twenty years and each of us would have to take control of our own destiny and look after ourselves. Peters predicted that women would be more and more important to organisations because they were better at the softer S factors in Peters' S Framework.

Our next guru is a good friend of Tom Peters and shares his belief in the need to harness the talents and enthusiasms of the individual to the mission of the organisation. His name is Warren Bennis.

Read Tom Peters' biography

Some useful business words:

including or covering every aspect of something

gets under the skin
understands the essential characteristics of something

popular at a certain time

people or organizations who do things or are active

having practical experience, not just dealing with theory

their main aim was to increase profits

tight-loose structure
they used tight control where necessary, and loose control where they could give people autonomy

became weak

take control of our own destiny
to decide and make things happen in one's life

shares his belief
he also believes in

to use something

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